A standout in every lineup, eight-year-old Argentine-bred dark grey dappled mare Don Ercole Chelita sends shockwaves across the field with her agility, handiness and sheer power at every game time appearance. Chelita’s sturdy yet athletic build gives her an edge on the field, combining stability for the rider with unstoppable stamina and endurance. Her easygoing and gentle demeanor off the field however, makes her the total package and a key staple in 4-goaler Kristos “Keko” Magrini’s string.
Chelita hails from the Don Ercole breeding operation in Córdoba, Argentina, a program run by Keko’s father, Matias Magrini. She was born out of Ella, a thoroughbred Matias bought from Carlos Gracida, by Machitos Chelo, and was one of only two horses to come out of that exact breeding combination. “She was really proactive, she had an amazing mouth. She was really fast and would stop and turn on a dime,” shared Matias on what made Ella such a great polo pony and good prospect as a broodmare. Ella passed along many of those traits to Chelita.
Keko Magrini on Don Ercole Chelita in the 2022 Gauntlet of Polo with Scone. ©David Lominska
Continuing on to describe Chelita as a young filly, Matias remarked,“ She was always easy to work with in her group and was kind of the leader of the group.” In Argentina, she was first trained by Ariel Bonilla and later by Jose Maria Petrachi. While many of Ella’s foals are often temperamental, Chelita’s good-natured disposition has made her a favorite on and off the field.
Never afraid to give her all to a play, Chelita has often been seen racing past or bumping 10-goalers during the Gauntlet of Polo. After a successful high-goal winter season with Scone, Chelita and Keko look to make waves in this year’s Farmers & Merchants Bank Silver Cup with new team L.E.N.Y.
What are some of your favorite qualities about Chelita?“She has a little bit of everything. She has a lot of power, she’s really calm and she has a really big heart. You can play her a few times and she’s always good […] She’s really comfortable on the field and never gets tired […] She’s [also] super-fast and has power. She gives me extra confidence.”
How would you describe her personality off the field?
“The daughters of Ella are moody. Out of all of them, Chelita is probably the kindest one. She’s really calm. You could put anyone on top of her and she would stay calm. But she gets a little more ready when she’s on the field.”
A good-natured mare, Don Ercole Chelita’s gentle demeanor makes her one of Keko’s favorites. ©David Lominska
What chukker do you typically play Chelita?
“In the sixth. And if not, I put her as a spare in the beginning or in the first chukker so she can come back later. In Florida, she always played two chukkers. She came in at least two times.”
What are some notable games you’ve played Chelita in?
“In 2021, I played her with Pilot. She played the [USPA] Gold Cup and the U.S. Open [Polo Championship]. She also came to play here in Santa Barbara in the Silver Cup and the Pacific Coast Open that year. She went back to Florida this winter and I played her the whole season.”
How did Chelita join your string?
“My dad told me she would probably be good for me to take to Florida. Then I played her in two or three practices before she came here and I was like, yeah, I really like her.”
What does the long-term future look like for Chelita?
“My father took a few embryos when she was in Argentina. He really likes her as a breeding mare. She’s probably going to go back to Argentina as a broodmare eventually.”
Where will Chelita go after the Santa Barbara season wraps up?
“I’m going to turn her out until the Florida season.”
*Kristos “Keko” Magrini is an Active Team USPA Member. Team USPA is a USPA program designed to enhance and grow the sport of polo in the United States by identifying young, talented American players and providing mentored training and playing opportunities leading to a pool of higher rated amateur and pro players and the resultant giveback to the sport of polo.